Putin’s world: The CIA chief’s long history with Putin gives him a special vision

Burns may be a good scientist in Putin’s world, but he did not foresee just how much the Russian president would defend the Biden administration’s foreign policy agenda.

During his February Senate hearing, Burns said that as the director of the CIA, he would have “four critical and interconnected priorities.” They were: “China, Technology, People and Partnerships.”

Russia did not exist That is the priority list. To be fair, few people in Washington were bothered by that at the time. The city was more obsessed, on a partisan basis, with China and its ambitions.

That changed in the final months of 2021, as Putin massed forces along Russia’s border with Ukraine in numbers and ways that alarmed US officials. Biden sent Burns to Moscow, where he met with Kremlin officials and I spoke to Putin on the phoneconveys US concerns about the surge and warns that Moscow will pay a price if it invades.

As the weeks passed, Biden administration officials decided to selectively declassify and Dissemination of some US intelligence About the Kremlin’s possible war plans. It was an unusual maneuver that Burns said was crucial to derailing Putin’s efforts to use disinformation tactics to justify a full-scale war on Ukraine, the country he first invaded in 2014.

Burns declined to be interviewed for this story, but he has spoken in a variety of public forums since taking command of the CIA.

In an appearance at the Financial Times’ Weekend Festival Earlier this month, Burns said that while the administration was publicly warning that Putin was preparing for an invasion, he and his colleagues had “spent many sleepless nights hoping we’d be wrong.” But Putin chose to disappoint them.

Even as Burns and his agency try to outdo the Kremlin, the CIA director still believes that China represents the greatest long-term geopolitical threat to the United States. The Asian giant, led by Xi Jinping, is “in many ways the most profound test the CIA has ever faced,” Burns told an audience at Georgia Tech in April.

The communist-led country advances in artificial intelligence, economic intertwining with the United States, and cyber activity that, among other things, US federal employee data threatenedThese are just some of the many reasons why the CIA is racing to confront Beijing. It’s more difficult than ever. The CIA has reportedly seen Beijing identification Many clandestine operatives, in addition to the above Implementation of many sourcing in China.

As part of his desire to ensure that the CIA’s long-term focus remained on China, Burns created the China Task Center, the agency’s only one-country center. The agency is also increasing its budget for China-related business, and hopes to double the number of Mandarin-speaking officers.

Burns has also established the Center for Transnational Missions and Technology, which focuses on emerging technologies along with border-breaking challenges such as climate change. Burns Nand Molchandani has appointed the agency’s first Chief Technology Officer, who has experience in both the private and public sectors.

Early in his tenure, Burns ordered that more resources be devoted to understanding the peculiar health incidents – often called “Havana syndrome” – that afflicted many CIA officers, US diplomats and other government officials. There were concerns that Russia was behind these incidents and that it used technology that directed energy at the victims. So far, though, US officials say they have found no evidence of Moscow’s involvement.

However, Burns’ focus on the subject helped him impress many in the intelligence world.

icebreaker

In fact, it’s almost impossible to find someone in Washington who would criticize Burns, even in private.

“We named the hall after the man, and he’s not dead,” a State Department official said sarcastically. (The William J. Burns Hall is room 1927 At the Department’s Harry S. Truman Building.)

Burns is often the person in the meeting who comforts people with sarcastic jokes. “Sometimes it’s the person who says, ‘Yeah, that’s really hard. “It’s really hard not to have complete answers,” said a former senior Biden administration official.